A Fine Taste for Scarlet and Miniver
If you are an Eleanor of Aquitaine admirer, as I am, or simply a fan of strong women in medieval times, this book, by E.L. Konigsberg, is for you.
Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine, became Queen of France when she married Louis VII (The Pious), but she bore no male heirs. One day Eleanor went from prayers in the chapel with Louis out to her garden, where she took one look at young, handsome Henry Plantagenet and subsequently wangled a divorce from Louis. Shortly thereafter came a formal invitation into Henry's bed as Queen of England.
Eleanor bore many illustrious children, including Richard the Lionhearted and (later)
John, who "inherited" Ireland, became king after Richard, and signed the Magna Carta.
While still married to Louis, Eleanor satisfied her taste for culture and luxury by going on crusade with her husband to Constantinople and beyond. She was indefatigable and later, at age 84, the queen crossed the Pyrenees to secure a bride for her son Richard.
Eleanor, together with her daughter Marie de Champagne, established the tradition of "courtly love" and hosted poets and troubadours wherever they went.
This novel is a witty, sly re-telling of Eleanor's story from the points of view of Queen Mother Mathilda (wife of Henry I); French cleric and diplomatic wizard Abbot Suger; King Louis of France (Eleanor's first husband); and the knight William [the] Marshal, protector of the royals. The stories are shared as they wait in heaven (termed "Up") for the arrival of Eleanor's husband, Henry, from "Down There."
The book is imaginative and fun to read; the writing is lively; and you gain a wonderful insight into the thinking of the royals and their ministers, along with their antics, anguishes, and achievements.
Sources: A Fine Taste for Scarlet and Miniver by E.L. Konigsberg; The Book of Eleanor by Pamela Kaufman; Eleanor of Aquitaine, by Regine Pernoud.